O Captain! My Captain!

posted by Momo Fali on August 11, 2014

When I was a teenager my life was, quite frankly, a mess. I won’t go into details, because that isn’t what matters now. What I will say is that I was existing, but not living or experiencing much beauty. I felt unloved, I was in an abusive relationship, and had a lot on my plate. Depression is a terrible, debilitating beast and I found myself deep in its clutches.

I managed to climb out with the help of three things; a great teacher, extended family and, you may not believe this, but it’s true, Dead Poet’s Society.

The words of my English teacher, “…you write well” were still fresh in my mind when I saw that movie and I witnessed characters on the screen who were so much like me. They were young, struggling and in pain, but great writing and a teacher sparked something in them that they didn’t know existed.

My first English essay in college began with a quote from Dead Poet’s Society. I still remember handing in the paper, fresh from the dot-matrix printer, and feeling confident about my written words. I don’t know if I would have been able to write anything were it not for that film and the inspiration it gave me.

There is a scene in that movie where a character, Neil, commits suicide and I remember the sheer pain expressed by the actors who played his parents as they run into the room and find him lying dead. I remember thinking how much someone would have to be suffering to knowingly cause their loved ones that kind of devastation.

I am feeling such twisted emotions over the loss of Robin Williams. I am heartbroken that he was tortured by depression, I am saddened that we will no longer be entertained by his genius, and I am so grateful that he made a movie that touched me in such a tremendous way. Rest peacefully, my Captain.


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            The arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead. -Walt Whitman


  • Melisa

    That scene in that movie is raw in my mind, too. He gave the world so much. My heart goes out to his family and friends; I can’t imagine how painful this loss is for those who actually knew him since a world full of people who appreciated his gifts from afar has suddenly been thrown for a loop. Great loss.

  • Liz

    I truly wonder…if only he knew how many lives he’s touched? (((hugs)))

  • Elaine A.

    Such a terrible loss. Lost my BIL earlier this year to the same nasty beast that is depression. It’s just so unfair.

    • Liz

      So very sorry for your loss, Elaine (((hugs)))

    • Momo Fali

      Elaine, it’s awful. I lost an uncle to suicide and I find myself still angry with him – 23 years later. It hurts so much, but whatever my feelings they can’t compare to what torture he must have felt.

  • Lori Anderson

    Thank you. It’s impossible to imagine what his family is going through because my heart feels so cheated of someone so wonderful – and I only knew him from afar, in the audience. Bless Robin Williams, bless his family, bless the families that deal with a loved one who struggles with life-altering depression every day.

  • Abbie Gale

    Depression is a greedy beast. I don’t know if I will ever be able to look at him again without feeling selfish for wanting his gifts and yet being unable to help him.

  • tara

    I’m still so in shock. I’m heartbroken that someone who gave so much could feel so alone (but of course, that’s how depression works).

    He made me feel like it was ok to be me. Thank you for your words, Momo.

  • AlisonH

    Thank you for putting this out there. I tried to write–something, anything last night on my own blog and simply found there were no words. I took refuge in the ordinary meeting-up by chance with a neighbor and wrote of that.

    What Dreams May Come is the Robin Williams movie that reached out in empathy to those who…as he… To show that there is love offered even if unimaginable to those suffering so, to show that they are never given up on so should never give up, and even if they do, there is empathy. There is love. It is real and it is there. Forever.

    And that is something to hold onto. If only, if only, but I’m glad at least he did for as long as he did.

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